Hello Beautiful – Scenes from a Life – Hannie Rayson

‘A few years ago a friend of mine travelled to Vermont, in the United States. After taking in the panoramic views, she noticed an ice-creamery. She went in and joined the queue.
There, standing two metres away, was Paul Newman.
She thought to herself, ‘Oh my god, that is Paul Newman,’ (as you would) ‘I am standing two metres away from Paul Newman.’
She bought her ice-cream cone and walked out onto the veranda to take in the view. There he was eating an ice-cream.
‘Beautiful day,’ he said.
‘Yes,’ she said.
They both looked out for a bit more and then she said, ‘Oh, what have I done with my ice-cream?’
He said, ‘It’s in your handbag.’

hello beautiful

I love that anecdote – seven degrees of separation and all that (or far less in this account) – between author Rayson and the great and famous. Newman is by far the top of the pile of celebrities name-checked in ‘Hello Beautiful’. But we also find out that she and hubby (arts media personality Michael Cathcart) stay at Paul Cox’s French idyll when in that part of the world; that she is related to a former teacher who advised Cate Blanchett that fronting a class in the future would be far a better use of her talents as she was clearly never going to make it as a thesp and that on her business card, apart from name, comedienne Wendy Harmer has simply ‘Adventuress’.

To be quite honest Hannie Rayson had never been on my radar until recently. Had I been a frequenter of major city theatre productions I would have been more attuned to her prominence in that field. I know of an earlier work of hers through the resulting movie adaptation, ‘Hotel Sorrento’. But this book was all over that once Melbourne broadsheet and the Oz. Several amusing extracts in those convinced me to shell out for her tome.

Yarra City critic Cameron Woodhead describes it as follows –It’s a book of beautifully crafted, free-flowing vignettes that illuminates with warmth and humour and some urbanity the paradox of an artist who’s relatively well-adjusted and ordinary, and the contours of the intimate relationships that formed her.’ A few of these vignettes fall flat through being a little too forced in the humour department, but overwhelmingly she had me chortling away more often than not. Added to this levity there are reality checks such as miscarrying whilst in the process of interviewing, as a young journalist, icon Arthur Boyd at his home and the intensely intimate tale of a worrisome mole on her vagina. I related to her as a member of the select club that also features my own lovely lady – they both pride themselves in finding parking, without fail, immediately outside every destination – and the author does it in Melbourne! Poor Michael – or MC as he is lovingly referenced in the book – and yours truly have to invariably park several clicks away and commence walking. Her tale of her experience at ‘Wally Groggin’s Golden Mile of Used Cars’ also hit a nerve. This time she has it, in common with your scribe – we’re both complete and utter incompetents with anything to do with automobiles. In our relationship Leigh is the car-savvy one. And back in my old stomping ground up north, Burnie also boasted its ‘Golden Mile’ of used cars, at Cooee. Wanting to update my old banger, in lieu of Leigh who had already decamped to Hobs, I took along friend Keith. I quickly spotted a sporty number – sleek green and streamlined I seem to recall – and figured that I would look very nifty indeed behind it’s wheel. I think it was my one and only attack of the Peter Pans. Thankfully Keith, with the words, ‘You’d kill yourself in that thing Steve’ was able to bring me back to reality and we ended up with a serviceable but very boring Mondeo. With her mate Mark along in similar support, Rayson was protected from any dodgy dealer who’d figure he’d get one over the little woman. There’s also the delightful tale she tells of fellow wordsmith Carrie Tiffany, entering a book store to buy a copy of her own award winning (and excellent) ‘Mateship With Birds’, has the Gen Y person behind the counter advise her not to bother with it as it is a shit read.

hannie rayson

It seems Hannie Rayson wrote this memoir as an antidote to some recent career setbacks with several of her plays she’d invested much sweat in being underwhelming at the box office, or even failing to get up for staging. For one, I trust that this lovely and seamlessly readable trip down her formative years in the less sophisticated Victorian capital of the fifties, sixties and seventies – and then beyond to the multicultural metropolis it is today – will not be a one-off. Her work is as addictive as McInnes at his best and I was thoroughly enchanted by her ‘not so ordinary life’.

The Two of Us – Hannie and Michael = http://www.smh.com.au/good-weekend/two-of-us-michael-cathcart-and-hannie-rayson-20150220-12l96d.html

The Oz on Hannie = http://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts/review/playwright-hannie-rayson-recalls-her-not-so-ordinary-life/story-fn9n8gph-1227259658172

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